I have to confess that I’ve been a little annoyed with some of Leo Babauta’s posts rejecting such things as iphones in the name of minimalism. To me, the neat thing about technology is that it can help you embrace minimalism by doing more with fewer devices.
I had held off on getting a smartphone simply because I didn’t think I’d use the features enough to justify an additional $30 a month on my phone bill for a data plan. Then my daughter got a Droid Razr, and when I saw everything it could do, I was hooked, and ran out and got one within the week.
My justification was that it could do so many things. My GPS had just broken – but my phone was now a better GPS than my stand-alone GPS. The Droid was a better MP3 player than my now-obsolete MP3 player. It was a serviceable e-book reader, so I’d always have a book with me. It keeps my schedules, to-do lists and emails. It can record voice memos and even transcribe them. It’s a great camera (ok, I don’t take many pictures, but it can save the day when you need one). I have an excellent Bible reader on it, a meditation timer, and links to all my important documents. The last few weeks I’ve been saying Mass with just my Droid to serve as lectionary, scripture reader and music player. I even used it for meditation diaries and dream journals.
Funny thing, though, about those dream journals. Night after night after night, ALL I was dreaming about was setting up my new phone. Only natural, since I spend uncounted hours getting it “just right” and then scrapping it all again for another arrangement. I spent lots of additional time looking for just the right combination of apps. More still organizing my music. If the device was saving me any time, it was more than making up for it in the time I was investing in setting it up.
The other day, I switched back to a paper journal for dream and meditation journals. Even with voice transcription, it was just taking too long to put in a journal entry. My entries were getting shorter and shorter. So what if I don’t have access to my journal everywhere in the cloud? At least it has more worthwhile entries.
So… has the phone improved my life, or just made me its servant? I’m hoping that as my setup stabilizes and the novelty wears off, it will simply become a handy device that sits unobtrusively in my pocket and insures that I don’t have to carry a phone, camera, GPS, voice recorder, my latest book, my planner, my Bible, lectionary, mp3 player, etc. around with me all the time.
But I’m beginning to have a bit more respect for Babauta’s opinion that having the latest device carries its share of attachment to possessions. Fewer possessions, perhaps – but definitely more attachment.